Héðinn Valdimarsson

Héðinn Valdimarsson

Sigurjón Ólafsson

  • Year : 1952
  • Height : 240 cm
  • Width : 98 cm
  • Category : Skúlptúr
  • Sub-category : Málmskúlptúr

Hringbraut: children’s playground At around the same time as he was working on his sculpture of the Rev. Friðrik Friðriksson on Lækjargata at the heart of Reykjavík, Sigurjón was commissioned to make a full-length portrait sculpture of Héðinn Valdimarsson (1892–1948), and influential politician and labour leader. He had also been a leading campaigner for affordable housing for workers, and the statue was commissioned by the People’s Building Society. In the autumn of 1953 a cast of the work, made at the Lauritz Rasmussen foundry in Copenhagen, arrived in Iceland, and the People’s Building Society requested permission to erect it near a district of workers’ housing on Hringbraut. When the sculpture was installed in October 1955, the artist was absent, and this may explain the fault in the way it was erected. As art historian Björn Th. Björnsson explains in his History of Art, Sigurjón’s intention was not only to capture a “likeness” of Héðinn, but to convey “no less the energetic manner” of the politician. And he also aimed to portray visibly the idea of a staunch and unyielding leader, and hence the figure of Héðinn grows organically out of the pedestal, both man and rock. In order to reinforce this impression Sigurjón used the same approach as Danish artist J.F. Willumsen applied in his portrayal of another political leader, Viggo Hørup (1908): he truncated the legs below the knee, and increased the height of the pedestal accordingly. But for this artifice to work – so that the pedestal appears to obscure the lower legs when seen from a low perspective – the pedestal must be somewhat taller than the statue itself. The present arrangement gives the impression that the feet have been lopped off the statue. Björn Th. Björnsson writes that Sigurjón depicts Héðinn “in the heat of a campaign, but swept by the chill winds of a meeting in the open air. His clothes are loose, and the breeze catches at the hem of his coat; one hand is down by his side, while the other clutches a sheet of paper – the notes for his speech... Sigurjón was clearly keen to avoid the lifeless stiffness which is the unavoidable fate of moulding hands in portraiture” (Björn Th. Björnsson: Íslenzk myndlist á 19. og 20. öld/Icelandic Art in the 19th and 20th Centuries).

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